Impulse Buy Theater - Night of the Seagulls
It’s been a while, but let’s finish this series off! Today we’re taking a look at the final chapter of the Blind Dead films…Night of the Seagulls. It’s worth pointing out that this and the previous film, The Ghost Galleon, are the only films in the series that even remotely feel connected. The first film, Tombs, set up the world while Return offered an almost immediate reboot. At the conclusion of The Ghost Galleon, we find that the undead Templars contained within the ship had found their way to land…and while there is a sequence in the beginning of Night of the Seagulls that almost seems like yet another reboot to the franchise, if we actually ignore this then it’s not too difficult to imagine the Templars setting up shop here and the locals quickly adapting to please their new undead overlords.
So here’s the deal, every 7 years the Blind Dead rise for a week and demand a sacrifice each night of that week. The village picks their most attractive 18-25 year old women as offerings…and if you look at the black shrouded older women that do the selecting…well…let’s just say that the whole ugly women trying to shame, insult or otherwise deride more attractive women was a thing long before the internet. We end up jumping into the festivities through our POV characters, Dr. Henry Stein and his wife, Joan. They’re taking up a village doctor position here as the old village doctor has decided he’s had enough of this mess and is hitting the bricks. [Given the age of the town, this is quite literal. – Ed.] Joan is sent into town to get the things that they need and is given an exceptionally frosty welcome by the locals. [To be fair, they’re probably pissed that she’s outside of the aforementioned age range…but still attractive. So, you know…the worst thing ever, an attractive woman they can’t kill. – Ed.] Come to think of it, Dr. Stein really is absent for a good deal of the opening of the film…well, either that or he’s so forgettable that he’s even now fading from my mind when thinking about the film. The next character we have to introduce is actually a bit of a staple in these films…the village idiot…in this instance named Teddy, who enters the film as a creepy peeping Tom. [Maybe overstating it there, as only the first film had an idiot…films 2 and 3 did not. – Ed.] Joan catches him, but he pleads for mercy (you know, while he’s actually breaking and entering) as the locals take to beating him pretty regularly. Lastly, we have Lucy, a young woman that takes pity on the new-comers and helps them in settling in and offers to work for them. Yup, she’s in the age range…so it’s pretty clear we’re going to be up against a ticking clock here at some point.
Four films in, it’s not too hard to gather what you should be expecting from this film. And while bits of the formula still work and the slight changes in formula serve the film well, you can see that this is where the seams in this formula are starting to show also. For example, Amando de Ossario does a great job making the audience hate these townspeople…although it does flirt with making them over-the-top in terms of their levels of assholiness. Although, given the current day and age…with all that’s going on both on the internet and in people’s attitudes toward thing that are different…the film actually does feel a bit socially relevant, even today. Obviously, one aspect of the formula I’m never going to criticize is the fact that every girl that you think has a nice set of casabas, well, sure enough, you’re going to see them. [I’m actually kind of surprised you don’t get a sneak peak at Joan’s. Some restraint there. – Ed.] The make-up and sound effects/score all repeat from previous films…and that’s fine. I have to admit, though, that the reuse of the footage of the Blind Dead rising from their graves…shot for and used ever since the first film…well, at this point it’s starting to feel a bit tired. Also not helping matters is that we end up retreating to the ‘under siege’ motif that has been a staple of the series…each film culminating in a boarding up of whatever house the characters find themselves in, holing up there until they’re overrun, then escaping if they can, albeit not without a few deaths to thin out the party and up the stakes. How this particular film deals with that last segment is a welcome, and more logical change, but for me it simply wasn’t enough to lift it above the mire of sameness it had spent the majority of the running time sinking itself into. For example, in previous films, a character could horse-jack an undead Templar’s horse. This time, however, when the remaining characters attempt to do that, they find that the undead steeds will still follow the Templars commands. It’s such a logical change that you kind of wonder ‘why didn’t they think of that in the prior films???’ and sets up a pretty good ‘belly of the beast’ sort of scene that serves as the film’s climax.
All in all, I guess my biggest beef with the film is that while it still does all the things that a Blind Dead film is expected to do…and does them reasonably well…it is this sameness that ends up overriding the inconsistent attempts to do anything new. With yet another origin sequence and another siege of an isolated house…it feels like the opportunity to use this film as a continuation of the last one was a bit wasted. As for the siege bits, look, it’s well known that de Ossario was a huge fan of Romero’s original Night of the Living Dead, but to use that mechanic throughout the series? Hell, even with George, it was one and done. Armando should have learned from that. In my watching of the film, I have to admit that by the time the credits rolled on Night of the Seagulls, I could see why this was the last film…and I found that to be an incredible shame. Here’s an idea that was fresh and unique, albeit rooted in a combination of what George Romero established in his groundbreaking first film and that European blend of horror and sleaze…but without pushing itself forward and remaining consistent with the films that had come before, de Ossario ended up filming himself into a box and…sadly…the franchise’s own grave. In a Hollywood rife with remakes and sequels, I’m holding out hope that someone can dust off these old films and give them a reconstructive treatment I feel they deserve. I think this idea still has a lot of life, or unlife, left to it…but someone needs to forge the disparate pieces of these films together into a singular cohesive mythology. With that done, I can easily see additional films starring these ghastly Templars. But for these original tales of the Blind Dead, they prove that just like an automobile, without routine maintenance and the occasional changing of parts, eventually they break down and are long forgotten.
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